First Look: watchOS 10 public beta

watch OS 10

Big iOS, macOS, iPadOS betas arrive every year, but only in the last few years has Apple started offering public betas for some of its smaller platforms.

But I’m glad that’s the case, because this year the action is on watchOS.

As I wrote several months ago, watchOS 10 is a big update that really spends time rethinking how we interact with our smartwatches. And now that I’ve spent several weeks using the beta, I can say with some confidence that I’m very excited about this reinvention.

Atomic widgets

Apples has been playing with a few different interfaces for the Watch since its inception, and in watchOS 10, it’s giving widgets another go.

Apple tried something like this with the Siri watch face when it debuted the Apple Watch Series 3, but as cool as the idea of ​​a contextual display was, the problem was that it required replacing the watch face you had. carefully adapted to your tastes. and style.

watchOS 10 widgets

So instead, in watchOS 10, Apple essentially stapled that Siri interface under whichever watch face you select, as well as giving you the option to customize it.

To access the widgets, you can swipe up on the screen to scroll through the list, which is fine. But, much better, Apple has repurposed the Digital Crown for the same purpose. The Digital Crown is the Watch’s best interface element and, in my opinion, one of the best physical controls Apple has ever created, and quite frankly, it’s been wasted on the Watch’s home screen ever since the Time Travel feature disappeared several years ago.

(That’s not the only physical control that’s been brought back, either: Pressing the Watchs side button used to bring up your applications’ Dock, but now shows Control Center instead, a much more useful feature, in my opinion. The Dock, for example remains, is now available by double-clicking the digital crown.)

Some watch faces used the crown for limited purposes Metropolitan allowed you to adjust the height of its numerals, the Astronomy face allowed you to zoom in on a small virtual planetarium but as it stands now, I can’t find any way to access those features.

Also gone is the ability to swipe left or right to change the watch face, instead you need to press and hold to bring up the watch face change screen, then swipe to change the watch face. Bulky? Kinda, and I don’t quite understand why this change was made, but if it’s a compromise for widget display, then I’ll take it.

The stack of widgets is well designed and lets you choose between first- or third-party options, arranging them in any order you like, and even pin your favorites to the top. They are well designed and make information easily available at a glance. Relevant widgets can move up if, for example, you’re currently playing audio.

My favorite, however, is the Complications widget which, true to its name, lets you add up to three circular complications within the widget. This makes it easy to access apps you might want to access quickly like Timer or Workout, and also features interactive options like a battery gauge or a lovely miniature real-time compass.

More to the point, adding the ability to move your complications to the widget stack frees you from the feeling of having to have them on your watch face, which means if you like me have you ever wanted to use one of the watch faces that offers only a few or NO complication slot, now you can do it safe in the knowledge that your complications are just one spin of the Digital Crown.

If I have one gripe it’s that I can apparently only add a single Complication widget. I can think of half a dozen complications I wish I had quick access to in my widgets, but watchOS seems to limit you to a single set of three.

Anyway, I can’t wait for more third party apps to bring widgets to this party, it finally gives me a reason to install more on my phone.

Redesigned and it feels so good

Most of Apple’s apps have undergone a makeover in watchOS 10, as per the company’s WWDC session. There’s a focus on single-screen interfaces in apps, rather than endless scrolling lists.

watchOS 10 Weather p.p
The Weather app has undergone a major redesign with a new interface and loads more features.

The Home screen has also been redesigned, narrowing the hive of app icons into a fixed-width grid of alternating rows of three and four icons that’s easier to use and rearrange (you can still choose to see all your apps as a list if you preferpersonally, are the team grid).

Apps are now more colorful with colors and make better use of the space available to them. There’s now an emphasis on moving the controls to the corners, a decision afforded by the larger screen size of the newer Watch models.

Overall, this makes the apps easier to use and look at, even if they are a little busy at times. And it doesn’t hurt that it gives everything a fresh new look. After nearly nine years of Apple Watch, a fresh coat of paint is nothing to sneeze at.

Features presentation

watchOS 10 Top view
There’s a new elevation view in Compass, though it’s probably more exciting when you’re not just above sea level.

Of course, watchOS 10 brings its fair share of new features to the table, and as usual, many are around activity and fitness.

There are new hiking features that can show you topographical maps in the Maps app (apparently only available in certain parts of California at the moment), you can set altitude alerts for when you exceed a certain altitude, and Compass waypoints now tell you your latest where you received satellite or cellular signal.

Apples have also beefed up cycling characteristics, and as I’ve recently gotten back to riding more, I can’t wait to take a deeper look at these. Now you can get Power Zones for your cycling workouts, connect to third-party Bluetooth accessories, and even view your active workout metrics on your phone’s display in a large, easy-to-read interface.

I appreciate a few overhauls to the Maps apps, including the addition of a walking radius, as well as the option for a transit map view. Offline maps downloaded to your iPhone are also available on your Apple Watch, which can be especially useful for hikers.

Snoop, there it is

Maybe I’m burying the lede, but I couldn’t help but dedicate a section of this preview to my favorite new watchOS 10 feature: the Snoopy watch face. I have fond memories of the yellow Snoopy watch my mom had when I was growing up, which had the beagle playing tennis, with his arms like the hands of the clock.

Snoopy on the Apple Watch

Snoopy’s watch face is just plain fun. Every time you lift your wrist, you get a different Snoopy animation, many of which also interact with the clock’s hands. I must have seen more than two dozen by this point, and I still get a new one from time to time. When you pull your wrist down, you’ll still have a static image of Snoopy lying on his bed.

You can choose a single color for the background or, for even more fun, opt for the Sunday Surprise: the background is gray during the week, and Sunday chooses a random color every time the display is turned on.

It’s a simple touch of joy and whimsy that fits perfectly with the Apple Watch. And, thanks to my stack of widgets, I don’t even care that it has no complication options.

[Dan Moren is the East Coast Bureau Chief of Six Colors. You can find him on Mastodon at @[email protected] or reach him by email at [email protected]. His latest novel, the supernatural detective story All Souls Lost, is now available for pre-order.]

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